You don’t win 11 NBA championships without a great basketball IQ, without an understanding of what makes a team work together.
Bill Russell has those rings and that understanding, which is why he’s always an interesting guy to ask about today’s teams.
And that’s just what NBA.com did. While talking to him about his recent surgery, they also asked him about this year’s Celtics — a team that saw the addition of Jason Terry and will see the return of Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox, but will be without Ray Allen (now in Miami). While the core is the same, there are changes with this Celtics team and that has Russell telling Celtics fans to be patient.
“You don’t know how they will play together. Getting a better player doesn’t necessarily make you a better team. That may sound kind of weird. You may acquire a player with better statistics but may not make you a better team. Red Auerbach and the Celtics, we used to talk about that all the time.
The question you have to ask yourself, ‘How does his style fit with what you are going to put him with and will it make you a better team?’”
That same “we’ll have to see” philosophy applied to the Lakers getting Dwight Howard, Russell said.
“Now, playing in L.A., with a different group and a different emphasis, how will they use his skills in order to win? With the addition of Steve Nash as well, the Lakers can be very, very good. It’s going to take them at least half a season — at least — before we know how good they can be.”
Russell is right. Some Lakers fans think that this will be instantaneous, but I think the Lakers around the All-Star break will be a better indication of just how good they can be.
Jeremy Lin may take a while to adjust to his new setting in Houston as well, because he is going to be asked to do different things, Russell said.
“In New York, his teammates were able to get off their own shot. Now in a different situation in Houston, will he be able to help the guys that don’t or can’t necessarily get their own shot? If he does that, he can be very good. A recent example of that is what we saw Steve Nash do in Phoenix last season.”
A good sign for Lin — when he was at his best in New York (the two weeks of “Linsanity”) he was not with guys who could create their own shots, rather it was him running the pick-and-roll with Tyson Chandler and surrounded by shooters. It makes me think he can thrive doing those things in Houston.
But like Russell said, we need to be patient.